This is the Urban Christian News podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to the New York Post, The Michigan school shooting suspect has been identified as 15-year-old sophomore Ethan Crumbley. The teen is accused of killing four students and injuring seven others when he allegedly opened fire at Oxford High School, about 40 miles north of Detroit, on Tuesday. On Wednesday, officials at the Oakland County sheriff’s office said the teen shot a video the night before that spoke about killing students — and made similar threats in a journal found in his backpack. He was awaiting arraignment late Wednesday. His father purchased the 9mm Sig Sauer used in the shooting just four days earlier on Black Friday, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said. Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said Wednesday that her office is considering charges against both parents. She said Crumbley had been charged as an adult with murder, terrorism, assault and weapons possession charges. Crumbley had posted photos of the gun, and him firing it, in the lead-up to the school shooting, the sheriff added. Investigators said they are still trying to determine a motive for the deadly shooting because the suspect isn’t speaking to them. However, some classmates have said Crumbley was bullied, according to the Detroit Free Press. Police raided the family’s home, which is about two miles from the school, and seized several long guns from the house. Crumbley was taken into custody in the school hallway just minutes after deputies arrived around lunchtime. The teen put his hands up as deputies approached him, the sheriff said, adding that his gun was found to have seven additional rounds in it. Three of the students who were killed in the shooting were identified Tuesday by authorities as 16-year-old Tate Myre, 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana and 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin. A fourth teen, Justin Shilling, 17, died of his wounds Wednesday. Seven students, ranging from 14 to 17, were hospitalized with gunshot wounds, including several who were in critical condition. One 14-year-old girl was placed on a ventilator after surgery.
According to the Washington Times, The Rev. James Merritt, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, withdrew as a visiting professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest after accusations surfaced that he told a “racist joke” in private board meetings. Mr. Merritt, whose “Touching Lives” is a popular offering on several cable and satellite television networks, has been touted as a voice for racial reconciliation. He led the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, from 2000 to 2002. Mr. Merritt Tuesday asked to be allowed to step down as a visiting professor, “not wanting to be a distraction to the school,” seminary president Daniel Akin posted on Twitter, calling Mr. Merritt “my dear friend.” He added, “I have honored his request. His integrity, character & love for the gospel is a model for us all.” On Monday, Mr. Merritt was the subject of a video posted on the Capstone Report blog in which Scott Morgan, a former associate pastor at Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Georgia, accused the Baptist leader of regularly telling a joke Mr. Morgan deemed racially insensitive. “He needs to come clean about ‘Rastus,'” Mr. Morgan says in a video interview. “Hearing him lecture the SBC about the whole thing of racism. But here is the man that would laugh and enjoy calling up his fellow minister friends … as we’re going to share Christ with people, and call ministers saying ‘Let me tell you about Rastus.’ … It was trying to come across like black people were stupid.” Mr. Merritt was also called out by conservative critics for having praised a sermon his son, religion journalist and author Jonathan Merritt, gave at Good Shepherd Church in New York City. In a Nov. 22 Twitter message, the elder Mr. Merritt wrote, “I don’t agree with my loved son Jonathan Merritt on everything to be sure. But I encourage you to listen to his message on Mark 13. It is both brilliant and faithful to the gospel and the coming of Jesus!” The Baptist News Global report noted that Jonathan Merritt has been “outed” as a homosexual, and stated that his father was attacked by the Conservative Baptist Network, which said, “For one who is employed by a Southern Baptist seminary receiving Cooperative Program tithe dollars to promote an unrepentant sinner — no matter whose son he is — as a trustworthy preaching source is a betrayal of trusting Southern Baptists.” Mr. Akin made no reference to the reason Mr. Merritt stepped aside. A call to the seminary by The Washington Times was not returned, and there was no answer at Mr. Merritt’s Touching Lives ministry office.
According to Assist News Service, Iran has decided that belonging to a house church does not make Christians ‘enemies of the state’. Open Doors UK & Ireland reports that the country’s Supreme Court has ruled that nine Christian converts serving five-year prison sentences for going to house-churches should not have been charged with ‘acting against national security’. The decision, handed down on November 3 but only communicated to the Christians’ lawyers on November 24, states explicitly that their involvement in house-churches and even the propagation of what is referred to as the “Evangelical Zionist sect” should not be deemed as against national security. Open Doors’ partner and Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, says the judgement has the potential to become a landmark ruling. He said, “We welcome this ruling from the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court’s ruling should now pave the way for the release of the nine Christians following a retrial at a Revolutionary Court. Even more importantly, it will give the Christians – and thousands of others across Iran – hope that they may now be able to worship together in their homes without fear of imprisonment.” The nine men, members of a house church in Iran’s northern city of Rasht, were arrested in January and February 2019. Nine months later, in October, they each were handed a five-year prison sentence on charges of ‘acting against national security through promoting Christian Zionism’. They appealed their sentences but with no success. While Iran’s legal system does not allow for a court precedent to be set, the judgement could influence cases against Persian-speaking Christians.
According to CNN, The United States’ first confirmed case of the Omicron coronavirus variant has been identified in California. In a White House news briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the case was in an individual who traveled from South Africa on November 22 and tested positive for Covid-19 on November 29. That individual, Fauci said, is self-quarantining and close contacts have tested negative for the coronavirus so far. The person was fully vaccinated and is experiencing “mild symptoms, which are improving at this point.” The California and San Francisco public health departments confirmed the case was caused by the Omicron variant through genomic sequencing conducted at the University of California at San Francisco, and the sequence was confirmed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Color Health said in a statement it returned the positive test result through an San Francisco Covid-19 testing program, and Omicron was identified in under 30 hours “from the time of collection to strain confirmation.”
According to Religion News Service, Marcus Lamb, a prominent Christian broadcaster known for his outspoken opposition to COVID-19 vaccines, has died after contracting the virus. He was 64. His wife, Joni, said on a Tuesday morning broadcast, “This morning at 4 a.m. the president and founder of Daystar and the love of my life went to be with Jesus. I wanted you to hear from me that he’s with the Lord.” Marcus Lamb was co-founder and CEO of the Daystar Television Network, a network popular with evangelical and charismatic Christians. In recent weeks, friends and supporters had been praying for his recovery from the virus, seeing it as a spiritual attack because of his advocacy against vaccines and push for alternate treatments. Lamb’s son, Jonathan, said about his father’s COVID-19 illness on a Nov. 23 broadcast of the Ministry Now program, “There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a spiritual attack from the enemy. As much as my parents have gone on here to kind of inform everyone about everything going on to the pandemic and some of the ways to treat COVID — there’s no doubt that the enemy is not happy about that. And he’s doing everything he can to take down my Dad.” Joni Lamb said on the broadcast that her husband had diabetes and that he had been hospitalized for COVID-19 after his oxygen levels dropped. She also said that he had tried alternative treatments but was not able to recover. She said she had used the protocols that they had promoted on the program and “breezed through COVID.” In addition to Joni and Jonathan, Lamb is survived by his daughters Rachel and Rebecca.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Duke Ellington School of the Arts will rename one of the institution’s theaters after Dave Chappelle no matter the outcome of a fundraising contest the comic suggested after his recent visit to the school apparently went off the rails. Earlier this month, not long after his Netflix special “The Closer” created a firestorm, Chappelle’s alma mater announced it would postpone a ceremony to rename a theater after the comedian. Last Tuesday, the Grammy-winning comic held a Q&A session for a packed crowd of students at the Washington, D.C., school, where those who took issue with his latest and highly controversial Netflix special reportedly made their passionate opinions known. Then on Saturday, Chappelle posted on Instagram that he would accept the outcome of a contest he devised in which donations to the school could be made either condoning or condemning the theater name change. “My only intent is to ensure Duke Ellington the opportunity to train its artists unfettered,” Chappelle said in part in the Instagram post. However, the school says the fundraising contest — while appreciated — is moot. The theater will be renamed after Chappelle. A statement from the school read, “While we appreciate Dave’s impromptu and spirited fundraising initiative, we stand behind our decision to honor the wishes of our co-founder, the late Peggy Cooper Cafritz, to name the theatre after Chappelle. All donations will go towards arts programming and every donor, irrespective of their support or opposition to the theater naming, will receive an official thank you from our team.”
According to the Associated Press, The head of the women’s professional tennis tour announced Wednesday that all WTA tournaments would be suspended in China because of concerns about the safety of Peng Shuai, a Grand Slam doubles champion who accused a former high-ranking government official in that country of sexual assault. Peng dropped out of public view after raising the allegations about former vice premier Zhang Gaoli in a Nov. 2 social media posting that was quickly taken down. WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon wrote in a statement distributed by the tour, “Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way. While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe, and not subject to censorship, coercion, and intimidation.” Simon repeated his call for a “full and transparent investigation — without censorship” into Peng’s accusations and took an unusually strong stand against China, which was supposed to be the site of several tennis tournaments next year, including the prestigious season-ending WTA Finals. Simon said, “In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault. Given the current state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022.” Beijing is set to host the Winter Olympics beginning on Feb. 4, and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said late last month he spoke with Peng on a video call. The IOC did not release video or a transcript of the exchange and said only that Bach reported she said she was well. Critics have suggested that Peng would not have called the IOC if she was truly free to speak. Zhang has retired from the government and has not responded to past requests for comment on the accusation.
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In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!